[Photo] Giulio Malfer

Mark David Wilford

Posted on: March 1, 2007

I remember vividly my first failure: eleven years old, I'd scrambled high up a corner system in Wyoming's Snowy Range until I reached a bulging mass of steep blocks and could climb no farther. All around me the sunlight glittered off quartzite walls and snow-filled gullies, shimmering across the alpine lake where my dad still waited at our camp. He had no idea what I'd gotten myself into. I'd never been so frightened. Retreating was like climbing down a huge tree, only more serious. I had to drop my pack, but as I began to concentrate, I felt an increasing clarity and focus. Without realizing it, I was getting hooked. The next weekend I talked my dad into returning, and armed with an ice axe I'd bought from my neighbor and thirty feet of perlon rope from the local outdoor shop, I headed up my nemesis to reach my first summit.

I've been blessed to have had such an early experience: while its lessons have saved my life, its memory keeps me young with the enchantment and mystery of alpinism. The formula of audacious attempts, terrifying obstacles, introspection, retreat, reevaluation and persistence has followed me ever since, from winter solo attempts on Longs Peak to grand epics on Nameless Tower. The climbs have gotten bigger and sometimes harder, but they still hold the same awe and attraction as the first one—and I've learned that traditional ethics are essential to maintaining that purity of adventure.

Curriculum Vitae

1970: Various routes (ca. 5.5, 800'), Snowy Range (ca. 10,000'), Wyoming, first alpine climbs, solo.

1976: The Diagonal Direct (V 5.9 A4, ca. 800'), Longs Peak (14,255'), Rockies, Colorado, first winter ascent, with Ken Duncan.

1977: Jules Verne (5.11 R, ca. 500'), Eldorado Canyon, Colorado, ascent, with Steve Mammen; Astroman (5.11c, 1,100'), Yosemite Valley, California, ascent, with Bill Price. Graduates from Poudre High School, Fort Collins, Colorado; attends one semester at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

1980: North Face (IV 5.8, 5,400'), Edith Cavell (11,034'), Rockies, Canada, ascent, with Keith Lober.

1981: Hypertension (5.12b) and Remote Control (5.12c), Vedauwoo, Wyoming, first ascents, with Skip Guerin.

1982: Multiple first ascents and first free ascents (up to 5.12 X) on Bohemian sandstone and in the High Tatras, Czechoslovakia.

1983: Gray Pillar/D7 (VI 5.9 A4, ca. 1,500') Longs Peak, winter solo enchainment.

1984: Risky Business (IV 5.11+ R/X, ca. 800'), northeast face, Chiefshead (13,579'), Rockies, Colorado, first ascent, with Jeff Lowe.

1985: Bird Brain Boulevard (IV WI5 M6, 1,000'), Ouray, Colorado, first ascent, with Lowe and Charlie Fowler. East Face, Bears Tooth (10,070'), Alaska Range, Alaska, attempt, with Lowe and Jim Bridwell. Neurosurgeon (5.12 R), Lyons, Colorado, first ascent, with Steve Mammen and Lowe.

1987: Spinal Tap (5.12+ R/X), Big Thompson Canyon, Colorado, ascent, with Mammen.

1988: Original Route (ED2), north face, Eiger (3970m), Alps, Switzerland, first American solo (nine and a half hours).

1990: East face, Bears Tooth, second attempt, with Bridwell; North Face (VI 5.9 A2), Mt. Alberta (3619m), Rockies, Canada, solo attempt.

1991: North Face/North Ridge (VI 5.9 A3), Mt. Alberta (3619m), solo ascent.

1992: Run For Cover (VII 5.11 A3, 1000m), south face, Trango Tower (6239m), Karakoram, Pakistan, first ascent, with Greg Child.

1993: Member, Search and Rescue, Denali National Park, Alaska Range, Alaska.

1994: North Ridge, K2 (8612m), Karakoram, Pakistan, attempt.

1995: Compressor Route (VI 5.10b A2 70 degrees, 900m), Cerro Torre (3102m), Patagonia, Argentina, ascent, with Adrian Burgess.

1996: Bloody Sunday (M8), Ouray, Colorado, first ascent.

1997: Messner Route (VI 5.11, 1000m), Marmolada (3342m), Dolomites, Italy, ascent, with Burgess. Icebergs up to WI6, Antarctica, ascents, with Mark Twight.

1998: Pugilist at Rest (VI 5.10 A3 M5, ca. 3,000') and Wilford Couloir (5.9 M4 WI5), Mt. Alverstone (14,500'), St. Elias Range, Alaska/Canada, first ascents, with Barry Blanchard.

2000: Southeast Face (VI 5.10 A1, 1050m), The Battleaxe (ca. 1852m); West Face (V 5.10+ R, 520m), The Spear (ca. 1500m); West Pillar (V 5.11 R, 575m), The Warrior (1948m), Kangikitsoq Fjord, Southeast Greenland, first ascents, with Mark Richey.

2001: North Face (VI 5.10 A3 M5), Yamandaka (6218m), Karakoram, India, first ascent, with Richey.

2002: Marries Kori Solt.

2004: Daughter, Lila Beatrice, born.

2005: New variation (VI 5.10 M5), south face, Mt. Asperity (3723m), Mt. Waddington Range, Canada, with Blanchard and James Blench. Receives American Alpine Club's Robert and Miriam Underhill Award.

2006: Son, Mark Charles, born. Velebitski (V 6a+, ca. 300m), Paklenica, Croatia, and Swiss Route (TD-, ca. 300m), Grand Capucin (3838m), Mont Blanc Massif, France, ascents, with Travis Spitzer. Nenang (6870m), Nyainqentanglha East, Tibet, attempt, with Richey and Jim Lowther.

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